December 28, 2011

Wake Forest (6-6) vs. Mississippi State (6-6)Dec. 30, 6:40 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Reason to watch: The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl features two teams that had their sights set on better bowl destinations. Wake Forest started the season 5-2 and in the hunt for an ACC title, but crawled to the end by losing four of its last six games, including two by at least 25 points. Mississippi State entered the season ranked 20th and aimed to top its 9-4 mark from 2010, but could not compete with the SEC elite: All of the Bulldogs' losses this year came to teams that finished ranked in the BCS Top 25. Both teams will look to cap underachieving years with a victory before hurrying on to next year.

Keep an eye on: Mississippi State running back Vick Ballard, who rushed for 1,009 yards this season, with five 100-plus yard games. Look for him to run over Wake Forest's 70th-ranked rushing defense and catch a few passes out of the backfield.

Did you know: Reports surfaced after the regular season linking Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen to the opening at Penn State. Mullen vehemently denied contact, but it remains to be seen whether the churning of the rumor mill was a distraction for the Bulldogs during their bowl prep.

ANDERSON: Brush up on your Music City Bowl facts

Final analysis: Mississippi State wins by big margins and loses by small margins; Wake does the opposite. The Demon Decons were outscored 103-51 by their opponents in the fourth quarter this season, so if the Bulldogs can get a sizeable lead early, chances are they'll emerge victorious. Mississippi State played a tougher schedule this season and is coming off a confidence-building win against Egg Bowl rival Ole Miss, both of which give it the upper hand against Wake.

The pick: Mississippi State 31, Wake Forest 17

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